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The Crooner’s Book Club News: September’s Wrap-Up

Monday, October 17, 2011

Nauapaka, Caren Loebel-Fried, Nona Beamer, Keola Beamer, Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, book club

The Crooner's Book Club's Reading Selection for September 2011

Aloha, gang!

I’m hoping you all have enjoyed savoring Nona Beamer’s NAUPAKA during the month of September.  (I sure have!)  How many times did you read it?  I read it at least a dozen times through and listened to it about a bazillion times.

Yup.  A bazillion times.

(I have the book open on my lap, right now, as I’m typing this blog post.  It’s a joy to read it every time!)

Here are my thoughts:

The Story:  It’s a classic tale of forbidden love.  A princess falls in love with a commoner.  And at that time in their culture, that love is kapu, taboo/forbidden.  Ah!  So tragic!  And while this storyline isn’t uniquely “Hawaiian” it does have some AWESOME points that make it Hawaiian.  A story that deals with a kapu, or taboo.  The lovers consult the kūpuna, the elders, when they need advice.  They eventually consult with a kahuna, a priest, who tells them that the Hawaiian gods must decide.  And then they receive the tragic “verdict” via a hōʻailona, an omen/sign–and this one was found like so many signs in Hawaiʻi–via the natural elements..

And the story, itself, helps to explain the naupaka flower–the flower found in 2 complete halves, one on the beach and one in the uplands.  I love a legend that explains something in nature. One of my more “scholarly friends” subscribes to the theory that people see things in nature and then create stories/myths/legends to explain it.  I appreciate his scientific approach.  And I still enjoy the romance of the story and the traditional legend that surrounds the flower’s origins.  I love it all.

The Language:  I love how Aunty Nona tells a rather “mature” story with complex themes in language that wouldn’t alienate a child.  I love that her voice is the voice of beloved teacher–both on the page as well as the recording!  It’s got a nice mix of English and Hawaiian–much like one would hear when talking with Hawaiian kūpuna (elders).  The two languages are so often lovingly braided together in a conversation.

The Hawaiian translation, provided by master linguist (and Aunty Nona’s hānai son!) Kaliko Beamer-Trapp, makes the book a valuable resource for both Hawaiian language speakers and students, alike.  Having the text in both in English and Hawaiian on the same page has given me an opportunity to read (and reread!) the story–each time in a different language.

The Art: Caren Loebel-Fried is one of my all-time favorite artists.  And we share a love for our beloved teacher, Aunty Nona Beamer.  When I read Aunty Nona’s words (and listen to her voice via the recording) I immediately picture Caren’s stunning artwork.  Her style compliments Aunty Nona’s words and presence.  It’s strong–yet still feminine.  It’s powerful.  It’s got stong mana.  A perfect combination.  (I hope to interview my buddy, Caren, in an upcoming blog post.  Please stay tuned for that!)

The Recording:  Ah.  This is the part that has been the most difficult to write about.  Why?  Well, I miss Aunty Nona so much.  She passed away in 2008 and I miss hearing her voice.  However, thanks to this recording, I can bask in her golden tones, again.  Simply by pushing PLAY.  The recording was originally made for her story album The Golden Lehua Tree.  It’s been a favorite for years.  Aunty Nona’s voice, her distinct style of storytelling AND the music of her son, Keola Beamer, makes a perfect listening treat.  So I listen to it and I’m happy.  And I’m equally sad that she’s no longer here.  But mostly, I smile… her voice is delicious to my ears.  And Keola’s musical accompaniment provides the perfect “soundscape” for the stories.

So… that leads to the final question:  Is this a children’s book?

My gut says NO.  At least, not exclusively.  Could a child listen to the story and appreciate it?  Absolutely.  Could an adult “see more”/have more insights into the story?  Absolutely.

I can think of a more fitting question:  Is this a book that should be treasured by people of all ages?

And instantly, my heart says, “YES!”

What are YOUR thoughts on the book?

**Note:  Due to a research project that is taking up an incredible amount of time, I’m taking a brief break from The Crooner’s Book Club.  I look forward to selecting another title soon.  And I’d love to hear suggestions for the next selection from YOU!  Please drop me a line to let me know what you think we should read next!

* Please click HERE to visit Kaliko Beamer-Trapp’s website.

* Please click HERE to visit Caren Loebel-Fried’s website.

* Please click HERE to visit Keola Beamer’s website.

* Please click HERE to visit the Mohala Hou Foundation’s website.

7 Responses to “The Crooner’s Book Club News: September’s Wrap-Up”

  1. Caren says:

    Thanks so much, Jason! I enjoyed your review very much.

  2. Betsy says:

    Have you read “Unfamiliar Fishes” by Sarah Vowell?

  3. Jason Poole says:

    Aloha e Betsy! I haven’t read it–yet! Have you?
    A great suggestion for the next read! Mahalo for that!

  4. Jason Poole says:

    You rock my world, Ms. Caren.

  5. Betsy says:

    No. I’m still on her book about the Puritans.

  6. Karen Guerra says:

    Jason, I had an idea. How about announcing the next three month’s titles at one time? Sometimes it takes me a while to locate the book and the month may be half over before I start reading it. Then, I think, “Why bother, since I’ve begun so late?

    This way I could have my books ready to read and comment on.

  7. Jason Poole says:

    @Karen: What a wonderful idea! I will definitely do that! Mahalo for the suggestion!!